Scientists develop equation for predicting happiness

The pursuit of happiness may be as simple as a math equation, according to a group of researchers at University College, London.

The researchers followed 26 participants who performed a task repeatedly based on certain and risky financial rewards. The participants reported their level of happiness throughout. They also underwent brain scans.

Two areas of the brain were associated with happiness: the ventral striatum, where dopamine neurons are produced, and the insula, which plays a key role in emotions. According to the scans, the striatum was linked to changes in happiness, while the insula was linked to happiness levels.

Based on these results, the scientists created a formula where a greater chance of happiness was possible when people performed risk-reward tasks better than expected. This formula was then applied it to more than 18,000 people playing The Great Brain Experiment app, a type of risk-reward smartphone game. There was an obvious consistency among participants regarding the relationship between rewards, expectations, and happiness—making the formula quite accurate.

The formula, published PNAS Journal, may help scientists better understand mood disorders, as well as the well-being of large groups of people.

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